Chattanooga to 3D Print Shelters for the Unhoused

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Chattanooga to 3D Print Shelters for the Unhoused

The city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Branch Technology, an additive construction (AC) company headquartered there, have collaborated on a pilot program to print shelters for the city’s homeless population using Branch’s proprietary Cellular Fabrication (C-Fab) technology. Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said in a statement that local group Help Right Here, which is working to address the issue of affordable housing, and Olivet Baptist Church are also involved with the project.

Branch has been around for approximately a decade, which is impressive given the company’s still-innovative technology despite the AC market segment’s relative youth. “[The] C-Fab process is unique from just about every other [AC] firm in that it doesn’t simply 3D print concrete structures but uses composite polymers for the initial latticework of an architectural element,” Michael Molitch-Hou, editor-in-chief of, noted in February 2021. Typical construction materials like spray insulation and concrete are added to this structure before it is used for its intended purpose.

Chattanooga uses 3D printers to build shelters

Situated on the banks of the Tennessee River at the base of the Appalachian Mountains is the city of Chattanooga in southeastern Tennessee. To get to the top of Lookout Mountain, where Ruby Falls waterfall and Rock City with its panoramic vistas, sandstone formations and gardens are located, visitors take the Incline Railway, which operates like a tram. On Lookout, the Battles for Chattanooga Museum celebrates the site of a Civil War battle that took place in Point Park.

Chattanooga to 3D Print Shelters for the Unhoused

In 2015, Branch in Chattanooga pioneered using the C-Fab technique to print walls effectively, and by December of 2020, the firm had raised $22 million across its first two fundraising rounds. As a result, the pilot program is well-positioned to find adequate answers to the problem at hand, solutions that will be even more pressingly required by the time the project is finished and its scalability and exportability are evaluated.

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Despite the fact that there seems to be a new article titled “Can 3D Printing Solve the Housing Crisis?” published every week, this is still very much just a question. Companies and policymakers have shown unusual caution in not immediately placing people in structures built with largely unproven techniques (especially given America’s history of social experimentation on marginalized populations), even though the unhoused population in the US continues to grow at the same time as the affordability of American homes and apartments continues to decrease. While it’s true that having any shelter is preferable to being in a life-threatening situation, it’s also true that having no shelter at all is preferable.

But now that the potential of these technologies has been substantially realized, we should anticipate and demand an increase in the number of pilot programs like the one in which the Branch is engaged. Again, the next two years will be especially significant for policy decisions on this front, as the widespread use of AC in emergencies cannot occur until its use has been demonstrated to be effective on a smaller scale. Given the stakes, having a company with Branch’s depth of experience and track record on board is encouraging.

Far beyond what should’ve been permitted to happen in the first place, the situation of people in the world’s wealthiest nation having nowhere to live is likely to appear significantly worse in two years. Rushing the job won’t work either because if it fails spectacularly, nobody will ever try it again. However, actual, practical, and, most importantly, scalable solutions may be available in a couple of years if many communities — and, dare I dream, maybe even the federal government — quickly take the initiative like Chattanooga is doing.

About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Global News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Manufactur3D is an Indian Online 3D Printing Media Platform that reports on the latest news, insights and analysis from the Indian and the Global 3D Printing Industry.

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